As a fan of NFC North football, I've seen and heard just about everything.
If it isn't the Lions' ultimate dismissal from contention or the Packers questionable tragic loss of Brett Favre in 2007, it's Minnesota's rise to the top, as Brad Childress continues to lead his troops toward the ever so close Super Bowl victory that the Purple People Eaters desire.
Yes, the NFC North is all wrapped up in a neat little package right about now.
However, what about that seemingly forgotten team of nowadays, the Chicago Bears? Sure, we all recognize that they are a part of the North division, but when it comes to being serious contenders, most people are perfectly fine with labeling the Bears as a number three team.
But what is the reason for the Bears' recent demise?
When it comes to a fan point of view, many people would be willing to pin it all on public enemy number one, Jay Cutler. Due to his woeful passing ways in 2009, Jay Cutler is an easy target for critics, and when it comes to what has kept the Bears out of contention, it is arguably a lack of decent quarterback play.
Aside from poor ole' Jay though, a number of other incidents have kept the Bears at bay. To keep the list short, a lack of offensive line, a lack of wide receivers and above all else an overall lack of motivation has seen Chicago take a step back from the 2006 Super Bowl spotlight they were once in.
This however, we all know. It's been a snowball affect in Chicago, and by telling you all this, I probably am not informing you of anything new.
What is new in the windy city though, is a new attitude. A new set of players, and of course a new outlook on the 2010 season.
So what has changed for Chicago? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the Bears have made a number of necessary adjustments to revamp their roster this season.
The first move of note, is of course Julius Peppers. Recently in an article I wrote that , "When you sign Julius Peppers, you pretty much know what your getting". This statement I still stick by, as the former Panthers defensive star should be a very capable weapon in Chicago's arsenal.
The thinking behind signing Julius Peppers is also very simple. When you think of the Chicago Bears, you used to think defense, these days though you think of a franchise who has backpedaled a little in recent memory.
Bringing Julius Peppers in is not only an act to try and bring back the biff on the defensive side of the ball, it is also an act to try and spark some rhythm against potent passing attacks.
Away from the big man, the other adjustments that the Bears have made were also focused toward defense. Although Chicago didn't have an overly great lineup of picks in the NFL Draft, by selecting Major Wright at full safety, Chicago may have found a small diamond in the rough back in April.
Finally, the last adjustment that the Bears have made has been more on the mental side of things, and is particularly noticeable in the coaching booth.
Prior to the Draft, head coach Lovie Smith was on a bit of a hotseat. Some may say that hotseat is still looming, but for the most part it has cooled down a little, given the Bears' motivational offseason.
Not only is this a positive, it is also good for the team, as unneccesary attention off the field would only further limit the Bears' chances this season.
Other notable points worth making for the Bears is the signing of running back Chester Taylor back in early May, along with Draft pick and possibly surprising quarterback Dan LeFevour, who is a suitable backup for Jay Cutler.
At the end of the day, there is a lot to be done in Chicago still. The Bears are one of those uncanny teams this offseason that need to put transactions into actions, instead of wasting money for nothing.
If Chicago succeeds, great. It means it's all been worth it. If the Bears fail though, things will continue to go down with the Green Bay rivalry, and unfortunately the NFC North may become a little weaker as a result.
Chicago play the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the regular season at Soldier Field, so we should get a firm idea of just how this franchise will look for the remainder of the season.
I don't want to judge the Bears right now, as I was brought up on the adage of "Don't judge a book by it's cover". This book may have gone through some rough times, but the cover certainly does look pretty right about now.
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